Sunday, March 19, 2017

Visiting the Homeland, 1876 – Part 2: Roast Duck With All the Trimmings

Today we're back in Ireland with Robert J. and John I. Howe as they visit their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends. Rob and John had never met these relatives before. Still, they didn't consider them strangers. These American-born brothers had heard their immigrant parents tell stories about their Irish family, and the Howes in Ireland had received many letters from their emigrant son and knew much about his American-born family.
The Howe Brothers Who Traveled to Ireland

The photo of Robert (far right) is from one of the scrapbooks compiled by his daughter, Sarah Eva Howe. The handwriting is hers. The photo of John comes from a Howe family album. I have wondered if these images show the same man, but I'm trusting the identifications provided by their contemporaries.

We pick up the brothers' travel diary as they rise and eat breakfast at Uncle Joseph Brown's cottage on a Friday market day.

Friday, Feb’y 11th

Got up just before 8 o’clock. Just at breakfast time Sarah A[rmstrong] arrived to get our washing, ate breakfast with us, when we started over to Aunt Eliza’s with her. John wrote a private letter to Ma, and Robert wrote to George [a younger brother]. After taking a lunch we and Sarah started to town on foot arriving there at 2 p.m. We found Uncle Joseph who had gone into town in the morning. As it was market day we found a large crowd of people, among them Grandpa’s wife [Jane Hopkins Bell], Hugh Robinson, Uncle Geor. Hetherington and daughter, and other friends. Called at the post office, saw Mrs. Spence, but found no letters for us. Called on the Misses Alexander, who were very glad to see us. After three hours very busily spent lunching and taking punch with our kinfolks, and shopping with Cousin Sarah, we started out home with Hugh Robinson. Arrived at his house (3 miles from 5-mile town) a little after 6 o’clock. After dinner and tea his brother-in-law Jas. West came in and we chatted about America, etc. until 1-30 when we retired in a very comfortable room to ourselves. We found here the same ground floors and furniture style of beds, tables, etc. as at other places but Mr. H. R. and wife appear to want no better and look fat and rosy as do the people everywhere we have been in the neighborhood.

Saturday, Feb’y 12th

Arose just a little before 8 o’clock, after breakfast John wrote up the Journal for yesterday and Bob read the Democrat of 22nd ult. until 10-15 when we started out accompanied by Mr. Robinson, crossed over through his place to the Clabby and Tempo road, followed that out to Clabby. The front gates of the churchyard were closed but we entered by the minister’s gate, looked through the yard, saw the tombs and exterior of the church but could not get into the church until we went down into the village and got the custodian, Mrs. Morrow, who came and showed us through it. It is roughly arranged inside and poorly kept. We saw about a foot of rubbish in the Belfry, deposited by the jackdaws. At Clabby we met Francis Kirkpatrick, Andy Coulter, and other of pa’s acquaintances. Leaving Clabby, struck out for Cleine(?) Hill, which we ascended. The day was not clear and our view was obstructed; we spent a few minutes reflecting on the scenes of Pa’s, Cousin Irvine’s and the Hetheringtons’ schoolboy days, then descended on nearly a direct course for Mr. Robinson’s house. Arriving there 1-15 we found Grandpa awaiting us and in a short time Mrs. Robinson’s sister came in and we all started to partake of a good dinner consisting of roast duck, stewed potatoes and rice, finishing up with Punch. The duck tasted elegant, notwithstanding it was cooked on a bare turf fire, which is the manner of cooking everything here in Ireland. Each fireplace has an iron bar, or a chain, suspended from above upon the end of which there is a hook which can be lowered or heightened by means of holes in the iron bar or by the links in the chain. Pots, kettles, etc. are suspended form the hook. A very primitive and unhandy way of cooking, though the victuals can be cooked astonishingly well. When the balance of us were nearly through eating, Mrs. Robinson’s brother, James West, and his wife came in.

As soon as we could get away after dinner we started off with Grandpa about 6-30 p.m., found Grandma looking out for us. As soon as we got warm we had tea after which we sang some songs in the "Pure Gold" for the old folks, cleaned and polished our boots and brushed our clothes. When we retired about 10 p.m. into the best room and the only bed in the house, the old folks fixing a pallet in the kitchen. Going through the fields from Mr. Robinson’s, John had a fall, the only one he has had since leaving home. He dirtied his clothes some though does not feel much hurt.

While we like to think of Ireland's rolling green fields, the Ireland John and Robert saw in February 1876 looked more like this frost-covered landscape. (Image of winter Ireland courtesy

Sunday, Feb’y 13, 1876

After breakfast started up with Grandpa to a neighboring house (Mr. Emmerson’s) to Class meeting. The morning being very disagreeable the class was only attended by the Emmerson family, ourselves, grandpa, and the leader, Mr. James Shaw. We met in a very comfortable room, ground floor covered by a matting, very well furnished with cushioned chairs and sofas, windows curtained, walls hung with pictures, turf fire burning in a grate, the snuggest farmhouse we have been in since arriving in Ireland. The leader called the class to order and all kneeled in private prayer, after which a hymn was sung, then the leader led in prayer, when another verse of a hymn was sung, the leader spoke as is usual in beginning. He then addressed himself to one after the other hearing their experiences and giving each one good advice. We each spoke and were called on to pray, but declined; the leader then prayed and another hymn was sung and class dismissed. Were well pleased with Mr. Shaw, is a good religious man. Inquired about Pa, said he made clothes for him in Fivemiletown when living there. We came back home with Grandpa. Grandma made us eat another breakfast, after which we started off for Aunt Eliza’s in a very disagreeable snowstorm. Grandpa went across the fields with us to show us the road. We are amused at the custom here of calling every little stream a river. On leaving grandpa picked up a pitchfork. We asked him what he intended to do with it. He said he was bringing it along to jump a river that ran through the fields. When we got to the stream we laughed at him and jumped across it. We arrived at Aunt Eliza’s (nearly wet through) about 11-45 a.m. We stopped a few minutes to warm ourselves, took some fruit, and then started off with Sarah Armstrong to Colebrook Church. When we arrived the service had begun. We looked through the graveyard before going into the church, saw the tomb of Sir George Benghe(?) also saw the tablet in the church to Sir Arthur and also others to many members of the Brooke family who are buried in the vaults under the church. Rev. Wm. Burnside preached a sermon from the text, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” We thought a poor effort. Owing to the wet, disagreeable weather, the congregation was light. After service we went back through the demesne of Sir Victor Brooke, stopped at the gamekeeper’s house, and warmed ourselves. Arrived at Aunt Eliza’s about 2 p.m. took dinner (the best we have had in the neighborhood) about 3 p.m. We had intended to go to town to church but being disgusted with the weather, and Aunt Eliza’s insisting on our staying all night with her and Sarah, we concluded to rest the balance of the evening. We spent the time very pleasantly chatting and reading (a neighbor boy coming in occasionally). Took tea at 6-30, after which we read and sung in the “Pure Gold,” bathed our feet in warm water and went to bed at 10 o’clock.

Coming next: The third and final segment of the diary, as the Howe Brothers say good-bye to their Ireland ancestors and cousins.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Visiting the Homeland, 1876 – Part 1: Robert and John Howe Arrive in Ireland

If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting the birthplace of your immigrant ancestors, this series of posts might encourage you to start packing!

In early 1876, brothers Robert James Howe and John Irvin Howe left America for a grand tour of Europe. Their first stop was Ireland, the homeland of their parents John Howe and Sarah Brown Howe. I think this was the first time any of the Howes had gone "home" since John and Sarah left Ireland for America almost 30 years earlier, in 1847.

While Robert (father of scrapbooker Sarah Eva Howe) and John (Sarah's uncle) saw many of the same tourist sites that are popular now, they spent the majority of their days in Fivemiletown (County Tyrone) and in adjacent County Fermanagh. John Howe, the father of John and Robert, was christened at Fivemiletown and married Sarah Brown at nearby Cavanaleck Presbyterian Church. The couple lived in County Fermanagh, and their first child (William Ficklin Howe) was born there. No wonder our travelers were eager to visit those places!

The young travelers (Robert was 21; John was 23) kept a diary throughout their trip. The location of the full diary is unknown to our branch of the family, but we have a transcription of the portion related to the visit to Ireland. The stories are as entertaining as they are informative. As one present-day Howe descendant describes it:
The Howe cottages probably looked much like this example.
(Image courtesy
“The diary gives a fascinating picture of life in Ireland in the late 19th century. The Howes were of humble origin, as evidenced by the thatched-roofed cottages in which they lived. Some of the families the brothers stayed with gave up their own beds so their guests could sleep in comfort. The brothers complain of the smell of cows coming from the barn that was attached to one of the houses. The Irish referred to the U.S. as ‘Amerikay’ and were excited to have guests from the place where so many of their friends and relatives had moved.”

St. Patrick’s Day is just five days away, so the time is perfect to begin this three-part series that takes us on a virtual visit to 1870s Ireland


The transcription begins with a diary entry dated February 3, 1876, as the brothers arrive in the area of Blarney Castle in County Cork. They paid six pence to see the Blarney Stone, which they declared “a humbug . . . We did not want to break our necks, so we did not attempt to kiss it.” They continued on to a hotel, arriving long after dark. “John wrote a letter home and Rob’t wrote one to the Democrat [a newspaper in their home town, Carrollton, Kentucky]. Retired at half-past eleven.”

On February 4, they went by Imperial stage to the Great Southern and Western Railway depot, taking second-class seats on the 6 o’clock train for Killarney. “On the way we passed many bogs and thatched roof houses and a few mountains and ruined castles. After a dinner at the Railway Hotel we engaged for 32 shillings a two-horse carriage, guide, driver, host, etc. for a five hours sight of the Lakes of Killarney. . . . Fortunately it was Fair day in town and as we drove through we saw crowds of real Irish people, men with knee breeches, and cattle and general merchandise for sale in the streets.” After touring abbeys and other sites, they spent the night before departing for Dublin.

Waiting for them at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin (fifth floor, Room 108) was a letter from Will (their older brother William Ficklin Howe). After supper in a “dining saloon” on Grafton Street, they went to Theatre Royal and saw “Dick Whittington and His Cat,” declaring “the scenery was the finest we ever saw, while the splendid pageantry of the drama could hardly be excelled.” The brothers wrote about dining and touring throughout Dublin on February 6 and 7.

What follows is the transcribed diary, with my occasional comments in brackets. Question marks in parentheses are those of the transcriber, likely either Robert’s daughter Sarah Eva Howe Salyers or Sarah’s daughter Mary Alice Salyers Hays. Names are in bold, with identities if I know them. I have added bits of punctuation for the sake of comprehension, but I kept editing at a minimum.

   The Diary

Tuesday, Feb’y 8th [the first day with their Irish relatives]
We took the [railroad] cars from Amiens Street station at 8-40 this morning for Maguire’s Bridge. The railroad runs along the sea as far as Dundalk, then out into the interior. Passed through Balbriggan, saw several hosiery mills. [Of course, the brothers would notice these mills. Their father learned tailoring in Ireland; in America, he worked as a tailor and owned a woolen mill and fashion retail store in Carrollton, Kentucky.] Changed tracks at Dundalk and Ballyboy, arrived at Maguire’s Bridge at 12-45. Found Uncle Joseph Brown and cousin Sarah Armstrong with a cart ready to receive us. Went up into the village, stopped at the inn, where after refreshments we started for Uncle Joseph’s, the luggage in cart and we walking. About two miles out the post car overtook us and John and cousin Sarah rode out to Aunt Eliza Braden’s house. Uncle Joseph and I walked . . . and stopped at Aunt Eliza’s. She had us take a lunch after which Sarah accompanied us across the fields and through a bog to Uncle Joseph’s house. Arrived at dark. Here we are at our own mother’s birthplace, a humble thatched roof cottage built of stone and plastered over as nearly all country houses are built in Ireland. Contains four rooms, two large and two small ones, all having cement floors. A turf fire was burning in three of the rooms and Aunt Margaret [likely the wife of Uncle Joseph Brown) met us with a blessing and words of welcome. Both ate six meals today including lunch and teas.
[For more about Irish turf fires, see]
Wednesday, Feb’y 9th
Arose at eight and gave uncle Joseph and Aunt Margaret their presents after breakfast, and at ten started to see Grandpa [the older Robert Howe, father of the immigrant John]. On the way met Mrs. Hugh Robinson, and found Grandpa and his wife [2nd wife Jane Hopkins, whose first husband was named Bell] living in a small house by the roadside, at the foot of Grieve Hill. They were glad to see us. Uncle Joseph went with us. After dispensing their presents and taking a lunch we went to Fivemiletown. Started at half-past three and got to Fivemiletown at half-past four. Received three letters and the Democrat. Saw Mrs. Spence, W. & N. Gillespie, and the house where Pa and Ma first kept house and where William [their first-born; brother to travelers Robert and John] was born. After a long walk we got back to Uncle Joseph’s house about 7 o’clock. Mrs. John Cowan spent the evening with us until about 11 o’clock, when we retired.
Thursday, Feb’y 10th
Arose at an early hour and in company with Uncle Joseph and Cousin Sarah rode over to Maguire’s Bridge and went by [railroad or carriage?] car to see Enniskillen and the fair. Weather sloppy and very disagreeable as we had a light snow yesterday. Arrived 11 o’clock. Went up to top Cole’s monument and got a view of the town and Lake Cerne. Walked through the town watching the crowds of people and seeing the sights until 12 o’clock, when we went to the Imperial Hotel for lunch. After that bought some papers and mailed them home, made other purchases. Took the train again at 4025 and arrived at Aunt Eliza’s about 7 o’clock. After getting our feet warm, which had got very cold coming out from Maguire Bridge, we went over to Uncle Joseph’s. Ate a hearty supper and retired at half-past ten.

So ended the travelers' third day with their Howe ancestors. In the next post, we'll walk along with Robert and John as they visit more of their Howe-Brown kinfolks and family friends. The brothers wrote in their diary about the homes, the furnishings, the food they were served – and, most of all, the people, who, though of humble means, "appear to want no better and look fat and rosy as do the people everywhere we have been in the neighborhood."

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Bits & Pieces: Transition From One Century to the Next

So far, this blog has mined scrapbooks about Sarah Eva Howe’s ancestors and then about her own childhood and young-adult years. Soon we will be jumping ahead to Sarah’s life as a wife and mother. There appears to be a gap in scrapbooks covering 1900-1910, the time when Sarah and Will Salyers seriously courted and married.

In transition, here are some final bits and pieces from the 1800s into the early 1900s.

Trip to Chattanooga, 1895

Sarah, like the rest of the Howes, was a member of the Carrollton (Kentucky) Methodist Church. As a teen, she was active in the Epworth League youth programs locally, regionally, and nationally. Here’s what she wrote about attending a national event:

The summer of 1895 was a notable one for me for we went to Chattanooga to the Epworth League National convention. It included the northern and southern branches of the church and the Canadian as well. We stayed at a boarding hotel with other delegates. A special thing I remember about the “fare” was eating my first huckleberries the breakfast before we left. But I certainly remembered well the Convention, the great hall put up for the occasion the speakers and singers, the new hymns [unreadable] and “[When the] Roll Is Called Up Yonder.” Then our trips to the Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge.

Death of a Young Bride

N. Lucy Froman Howe, age 18, 1878
On 1 August 1879, at age 19 and still in her first year of marriage to Sarah's uncle John Irvin Howe,  N. Lucy Froman drowned in an accident on the Ohio River near Covington. A family servant also drowned.

A Carrollton (Kentucky) Democrat newspaper story about the tragedy is filled with the flowery language of the day, yet the writer didn't think to include Lucy's name! To this day I do not know what the "N" initial stands for.

I believe the photo shows Lucy in her wedding dress. Does she look wistful, or is there sadness there? Did she sense that happiness would last only a little while?

(Posted on by Alan L. Fisher)

Family Baptisms

In Sarah's handwriting, this account of a few of the many baptisms within the Howe-Salyers family. The list begins with Sarah's parents. Unless otherwise noted, these were infant baptisms. Sarah, her siblings, and her children were likely baptized at the Carrollton (Kentucky) Methodist Episcopal Church.

Leaders of the Methodist Church, 1891

Prominent in Sarah's scrapbooks are clippings, leaflets, and other ephemera related to all levels of the Methodist Episcopal Church. This postcard-size piece presents 18 clergymen serving as the church's bishops in 1891. To help their names pop up in online searches, I've transcribed their names: William Taylor, R. S. Foster, S. M. Merrill, J. M. Thoburn, C. D. Foss, E. G. Andrews, Thomas Bowman, J. F. Hurst, H. W. Warren, J. M. Walden, W. X. Ninde, C. H. Fowler, W. F. Mallalieu, J. H. Vincent, J. P. Newman, I. W. Joyce, D. A. Goodsell, J. N. Fitzgerald.

Cultural Pursuits

Also throughout the scrapbooks are programs from cultural events attended by various members of the Howe and Cost families. Here are two of them: a program from a formal symphonic concert in Cincinnati (no date found) and an invitation to a gathering in the home of Mr. and Mrs. F. P.(?) Stucy of Ghent in Carroll County, Kentucky. The invitation directs RSVPs to Jessie Tandy, likely a relative of James Tandy Ellis (1868-1942), a nationally recognized soldier, politician, musician, author, and poet. Sarah's Winslow relatives, especially poet Louisiana Winslow Howe, were well acquainted with James.

So ends this chapter of Bits & Pieces. Coming soon: Transcription of a diary written by Sarah's father and uncle while visiting their parents' homeland in 1876. Through the diary, we meet the Howes and Browns who stayed in counties Fermanagh and Tyrone, Ireland. Thanks to the descriptive writing of Robert James Howe and his brother John Irvin Howe, we can almost smell the peat fires burning to chase the chill of February from the tiny thatch-roofed cottages. Watch for the first in the "Visit to the Ireland Homeland" series on Sunday, March 12 – just in time for St. Patrick's Day!